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August 22, 2013


Bob MacDonald

This is a good idea. Sue Gillingham's Blackwell commentary, Psalms through the Centuries, asks this question repeatedly - e.g. p 145 where she notes that both Calvin and Luther have a problem concerning the nature of the faith of the psalmists: "if David's faith and experiences are so central, what difference does the Gospel really add to them?" I think this is a key question - both related to obedience and hope.

Last night when returning home, I began to think about 'hope' and what the difference might be between that of a Gentile gathered to the God of Israel, and a poet like David or a later poet, who wrote a psalm - whether meditating on Torah or exile or trouble or covenant. Is there a difference in their hope? I write as one who has known as teacher the 'One who teaches humanity knowledge' first hand via the psalms. This quote, which I got from Kimhi's commentary, I noted yesterday is from Psalm 94:10 (Hebrew). How could there be any lack in God's teaching of these poets? I do not find Calvin's argument, as summarized by Susan, convincing (p145) in that seems to hinge on a distinction of physical and spiritual. God in Christ Jesus through the Spirit - or God in the Spirit through Christ the Lord, Jesus, is not any more spiritual in the new age or any less physical than in the earlier era. So both parties, Jew and Gentile have this hope.

I hope I have phrased my question well - perhaps my answer is summed up in Peter's comment in Acts 10:34-35 - that God has no favorites, that all who are god-fearing and do what is right ... (REB) are acceptable to him. Acceptance is a word first repeated in any psalm in Psalm 147, verses 10 and 11 - the bit about the legs of the rider and the strength of a horse: Yhwh favours (ratsah - acceptance/favour) those who fear him - who hope for his loving-kindness.

It seems to me that the Christ event is critical - but it is more than 'temporal' in a sequential sense, and it is present to Israel in its full yet undisclosed reality - in all generations. So inasmuch as I like your careful use of Christian as adjective (and that's rare for me to like the use of an adjective), there is a crucial question about what 'Christian' theology is that we must somehow face.

Jim Gordon

Hello Bob - that is a sensitive, clarifying and formative question. Sensitive because it is a careful reminder of how easily the word Christian, especially when used in relation to Hebrew Scripture, easily tips over into supercessionism, which is absolutely not my intention. Clarifying because you emphasise the importance of theology as our being taught by God, with the disposition of receptive humility, rather than being mere researchers into the divinity for our own ends. Formative because it opens up the co0nnections between hope and obedience, requiring trust and lived practice, which for Psalmists is Torah and for Christians is seeking the mind of Christ.

What I therefore intend by the adjective Christian is certainly not intentionally exclusive, imperialist or dismissive of other traditions in their theological engagement. I've read too much of A J Heschel (and Chaim Potok) to fall for that one.

But for Christians, as you say, the 'Christ event is critical', I would say crucial, pivotal, and central for a theology which makes the uses of the adjective Christian valid. Hebrews 1.1-4, and Romans 9-11 are key texts which should critically qualify Christian reflection on the Gospel.

For myself, I seek to follow a Christological hermeneutic in my approach to Scripture. If the revelation of God in Christ is God's final word, and if that Word is the Word made flesh in human form, and this in the power of the Spirit, then for Christians the faith that in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, is definitive for theology. Incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension and pentecost, ecclesiology and eschatology create a faith standpoint which takes with defining seriousness 'in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself.'

The relation between Christian theology and Israel is deeply problematic and contested whenever Christian claims disqualify or render obsolete the covenant faithfulness of God to the Israel and the children of Abraham. The roots of anti-semitism plunge deeply into such superiority, animosity and invalid theological dismissal of the womb from which the Christian church was born.

Bob you raise important questions here. All I offer are initial thoughts which recognise the historic tensions between Jewish covenant theology and the trinitarian and christological bases of Christian faith. Both Jew and Christian found their theological and practical lived expressions of faith on revelation, and both place at the foundation of revelation their sacred texts. We are guests in the Hebrew Bible; we have no right to hijack or co-opt the Hebrew Scriptures.

So whatever else I mean by Christian theology, it is a theology that must give an adequate account of the Triune God's revelation in Christ, without in so doing, negating God's revelation to Israel. The Christ event is native to and historically rooted in, the story of Israel and God as told in the Hebrew Scriptures. Any adequate Christian theology celebrates rather than seversm itself from our Jewish roots.

Thanks for you question Bob - time for my tea now!

Lisa Mohapatra

I think I've heard of that book ;) and shall look forward to the updates. I have been procrastinating whether or not to indulge in another module at college and this post has reminded me of how important, edifying and utterly worthwhile it all is! Thanks Jim.

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